Local Veterans’ Stories – part I

Ms. Workman’s 8th grade English class at Stark County Junior High has had the honor of interviewing local veterans and learning an oral history of their experiences. We are grateful for their service to our country. We are also thankful to the Stark County News for allowing us to share our writings. These are the students’ actual work. 

Chuck Ray Demetreon
By Rachel Demetreon

Charles (Chuck) Ray Demetreon was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1976. Chuck grew up in a family of five. His mom Alice worked for the Stark County Sheriff’s Office while his dad worked for Alco. Chuck grew up in Toulon, Illinois, and went to school at Stark County High and college at Illinois State University. Chuck was a passing student and loved to play all sports.

When Chuck was 19, he enlisted in the marines. He had thought about entering the military before, but when his Uncle Frank passed away, he knew that this was what he wanted to do. He was never deployed for war. Chuck trained in California, “It was terrible, probably the worst experience of my life,” he said. His instructors were strict but he was always able to complete orders. He requested to start training to be mechanic to learn something new. After training, Chuck was given a more advanced job as a chaser. In this job, he was assigned to bring back any military servers that were Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL) or left before their service was over. During the military, his life was very busy. He never got to see his family and had many different stations. The hours of work were about 24 hours a day.

When you’re in the military you are required to go anywhere in the world whenever you are ordered to. My dad was deployed in many different places, but not always by plane. He sometimes went by ship. In 1996, he was first stationed in Okinawa. He mostly lived in barracks that had 2 bunk beds. “It was exciting at first but after being in Okinawa for 3 months I got used to it,” says Chuck. After he was done in Okinawa he was on a ship to Korea for 4 months! The unit he was placed in was the 2nd Force Service Support Group (FSSG). When he was out of the military he then rented a house. He made few friends since he was mostly in a controversial environment.  One thing he was amazed by was the ocean view. His most exciting assignment was when he was in weapon training. When Chuck had free time he basically relaxed because he was so exhausted. He sometimes even received mail from his mom.

When Chuck left the military he was sent home on a plane in 2000. He was welcomed by his loving parents at the airport. After he left the military he began running a paint shop. But while stationed in Jacksonville, North Carolina, my dad met my beautiful mom Heather.  Next they got married on August 18, 2001 then they moved to Peoria, Illinois. After 4 years of being married, they had me in 2004 and my little sister Emily in 2006. We now live in Wyoming, Illinois. Thank you for your service, Dad!

Life serving in the Army
By Ashley Orrick

There are thousands of people risking their lives to fight for the freedom of our country.  Even if they never went to war they still went to save others’ lives for our country. All of these people made such honorable sacrifices for the United States.

James F. Theisen went into the Army, became a cook, and built bridges. James’s rank was a PFC (Private First Class). James never went to war but received basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. When he joined the Army he was twenty, and he never thought about joining the military before. He has a total of five siblings, two sisters and three brothers. He did like school and he was an average student but he never attended any colleges. He was born in Arcadia, Wisconsin, and he likes sports.

When James was in the Army he said that the food was good and never had any problems with the rules. The weather was very hot in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and they had to work 12 hour days in the heat. They would sleep in barracks and he had said the uniforms were Army issues. He said that he was a friendly type of guy and had some friends. He did receive some advanced job training as a cook, and he said that he had to cook for 100 people or more.

When he got out of the Army he went right to working in a furniture factory. He had a career as a Corporate Credit manager for Lester model paint. James also had a son that worked in sales and a daughter in computer. He has lived in Wisconsin and Illinois and had met his spouse at a dance and married her in June of 1965. His hobbies then and now contains golf and camping. Thank you, grandpa, for serving in the Army! It is such an honorable sacrifice for what the men and women fighting in war do for the United States.

Patricia Dyken   
By Jared Prindiville

Patricia Dyken a former staff sergeant in the Air Force grew up in La Salle, Illinois, and spent most of her childhood there.
When Patricia was 20 years old she decided to enlist into the military. She received her basic training at the Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas. She had long hot days from 4A.M. to 10P.M. filled with physical training along with learning in classrooms. They slept in bay dorms with bunk beds for up to 60 people. Her comments on the food were “It was okay, there were 3 meals a day, but we ate whatever we got.” She said, “I made one close friend that was my bunk mate, and we talked a long time after graduation, but it was nice just to have someone to talk to.”

Patricia was stationed at the Air National Guard base in Peoria, Illinois. When she was in Afghanistan she was stationed at a major air base. When they were at the base they lived in tents, trailers, and dorms. They had to endure extremely hot and cold temperatures in Afghanistan.

Patricia had frightening, exhausting, exciting, and impressive experiences during her time in the war. Her most frightening experience was when RPGs and mortars would hit the base that they were in. The most exhausting experience was up to 15 hour long hot days that were physically and mentally draining. Her most exciting and impressive experience was traveling the world and getting to see castles and churches from the 1500s in Spain that she would not be able to see otherwise.

After all of these experiences she went into the T.S.A or Transportation Security Administration and lives in Toulon, Illinois, with her husband and three kids. She said, “I might not be in the Air Force anymore, but I will remember those memories forever” thank you for your service.

Roger John Hawk
By Kalleigh Keane

ff sergeant in the Vietnam conflict. He was born in Streator, Illinois, and grew up on a farm with his parents, Philip and Mildred (Sullivan) Hawk, and his two sisters. When he was young, he attended St. Patrick’s Catholic Grade School, Minonk-Dana-Rutland High School. He also attended Mid-State College of Commerce, and gained his Master’s Degree in Special Education at the University of Maryland while in the Air Force.

My grandpa enlisted in 1965. He said, “It was felt you received a better assignment if you enlisted, but it required going for four years.” Roger joined when he was twenty-one years old, and never thought of joining the military before. Roger was trained to be able to read and send code messages, and his job couldn’t be shared for ten years following discharge. He received his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base (AFB), San Antonio, Texas, then received advanced, specific training at the Sheppard AFB in Texas for learning secret information regarding combat in Vietnam.

In the military, Roger had to work twelve hour days every single day of the year. In Vietnam, the weather was extremely hot. The coolest it would get was ninety degrees, the hottest — one-hundred and ten.

My grandpa flew twenty-four hours to land in Saigon. While he was stationed there, he would hear the enemy and would wonder what would happen next. His most frightening experience was the night their air base was attacked.

Roger was involved in the TET Offensive. He lived in a barrack made of wood and screen with a tin roofs. The most impressive allied weapon he ever saw was the phantom. The most impressive place he saw was the city of Saigon.

Roger earned the Commendation Medal and the Medal of Artillery. After the war ended, he spent one more year in the military; receiving the highest ranking of Staff Sergeant.

After my grandpa was discharged, he continued college and completed his education. He met his spouse, Mary Hawk, at a reading clinic. They married June 23, 1973 and had one daughter. Now, his hobbies are traveling the world, going to the Ozarks, and watching his family’s achievements. Thank you for your service, Papa!

Military life of Steve Orrick
By Kaitlyn Orrick

My father Steve C. Orrick was born in Bloomington, Illinois. He had a family of five, with two of his brothers passing away during his life. His father worked and ran a construction company which inspired Steve to work construction later in his life.

At the age of twenty, he enlisted in the United States Marines. His rank was sergeant. The war Desert Storm was going on and he wanted to go. My dad said he was excited to join the military during wartime.

He received his basic training in San Diego, California. When asked about training he said, “The training was long and hard.” He was trained for the job Fire Direction Control for Artillery. After basic training he went to Camp Pendleton, California, for the school of infantry. He later went to receive training for his job at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. My father met a guy during his time at the school of Infantry and they were later stationed together. My dad said that that was pretty cool because that seemed not to happen very often.

“The rules at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were fine, normal, everyday rules, and not to strict,” he explained. “The hours were simple.” he said. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday they had physical training from 6AM to 8PM. They worked in the field three days a week at full time hours. He was issued camis as uniforms; they slept in the barracks on base, which held three men to a room; but because Steve was a sergeant he had his own separate room.  My dad said, “One time when the barracks got crowded I had to room with another sergeant.”

After leaving the military he got a construction job for ten years and then became a national sales manager for a company in Kewanee, Illinois. He met my mother when he was out with friends, and they married in the year of 2000. He has four children, three girls and a boy.  Today Steve happily lives in Toulon, Illinois, with my family.

US navy officer Amanda Elizabeth Wendell (Clutter)
By December Tracy

Amanda Elizabeth Wendell (Clutter) was Chief Petty Officer (E-7) of the US Navy.  She grew up in Irving, Texas, and enlisted in the navy in July of 2002, at the age of 19. Amanda enlisted because a few years before, her grandfather passed away; and he was a soldier in the US Navy during World War II. Amanda thought that it would make her feel closer to him if she enlisted.

Amanda started out in Great Lakes, Illinois, for basic training, where she trained for Cryptologic Technician-maintenance which means she had to maintain and operate systems on board ships, subs, and shore commands. The first ship she was ever stationed on was the USS NASSAU (LHA-4) in August of 2003 and then later stationed at Norfolk Naval Station on the USS EISENHOWER (CVN 69).
Amanda’s commanding Officer was Captain Bannon. He originally enlisted as an E-1 when he was 17 years old. He worked his way through the enlisted ranks to E-9 and then became an officer. He really motivated her and had a great sense of humor.

“Making Chief was the best highlight, it’s something that everyone strives for but only a few actually achieve.” Amanda says this was her favorite moment of being in the Navy. She now resides in Virginia with her husband, 2 daughters, and her son. I never really got to meet my Aunt Amanda but I hope to see her soon.

Veteran drafted to the White Sands Missile Range
By Jacob Best

David Harms, currently of Chillicothe, Illinois, was drafted unwillingly to the White Sands Missile Range to work on, test, and make safer the missiles that would be used in the Vietnam War. Never seeing the battlefronts during the Vietnam War, he had a few friends but never lost any and yet still one is living in Kansas to this day.

David Harms grew up in Colfax, Illinois, and attended the Octavia High School and the General Motors Institute for college. He had intended to be an engineer his whole career. Before he was drafted, he liked racing anything he could. At age 14, he started racing go karts then advanced later on to the Micro Midget. He loved anything racing.

The draft came, however, interfering with his everyday life. He was drafted on January 15, 1968, to the White Sands Missile Range down near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Mr. Harms had been laid off of work a week when the U.S. military drafted him into the Army. He told me, “If you have never been in the military, then you can’t understand the rules you have to live by in the Army.”

He was a part of the Tank and Automotive Command that consisted of around two hundred others. One frightening moment was when a missile exploded and killed forty others from his group. After the incident, he helped make the bombs inside the missiles go off about forty seconds later. This helped make it much safer for the ones working with them. The missiles were filled with 1500 pounds of Jet liquid oil. One of his favorite memories was a time when he was aboard an airplane with forty-five automatic guns and many rounds of shells. Nobody checked their bags; therefore, nobody ever realized that there were guns aboard. The most difficult part of the experience was the combat. It was a part of his training though but not of his job.

Mr. Harms returned to Chillicothe and his regular life. He went back to his job and it had to be “held” or kept since he had been in the Army. He also told me, “It was a very unpleasant experience in the Army.” After the war, he liked to make quarter-sized models of farm equipment. Mr. Harms served for two years, received the ribbon of National Defense, and returned to his regular, everyday life. He was relieved when he was finished in the Army. He never wanted to return to the Army again and never did. Thank you for your service in the military.

Veteran Long tells about military life
By Chloe Irving

Veteran Michael (Mike) Long -age 41- is currently deployed in Puerto Rico for hurricane relief. Mr. Long is ranked as an E-6 Tech Sergeant and works with the Air Force/ International Guard. Michael served in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, born in Streator, Illinois, with three siblings: Nicole, Nathan, and Sam. Mike stated, “My parents were hard working people. My mom was a registered nurse and my dad worked at a factory. They were supportive and involved in our lives.” Michael grew up in a rather small town called Ancona, Illinois, and went to Woodland School his whole life. He enjoyed playing sports, going boating, fishing, and camping on his free time.

Uncle Mike had joined the military at the age of 18 and has been a member for 23 years. Michael didn’t give serving in the military much thought before he had enlisted. He requested a few different jobs and eventually was trained in radio maintenance.

After basic training, Mike had gone to Biloxi, Mississippi, to the Keesler Air Force Base for six months where he trained for electrical and radio at tech school and had classes from seven a.m. to noon. When Mr. Long got to tech school, he was limited to his base for two weeks.  He had to keep his things in his dorm clean and they had inspections.

In the Afghanistan War, Michael had landed in Kandahar, Afghanistan. His unit was the Nineteenth Air Support Operations Squadron. In the military, Mike had said that he was good at troubleshooting problems and figuring out how to fix them. Mr. Long occasionally got mail from his parents and siblings; he wrote back to his family during the war. When Uncle Mike was asked if he ever interacted with the enemy, he said, “We didn’t see the enemy, but they tried to hit us at night from a distance,” Mr. Long had many experiences and the most exciting one was leaving. Michael stated, “We also had a dinner with the locals outside of base. They were nice and treated us well at the time.” Mike had gotten sick when he had dinner with the locals. Mike ate MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat) most of the time in the military.

Michael Long now happily lives in Yorkville, Illinois, with his wife Kristina and his two children, Nikolas and Olivia which were the greatest things that have happened to him and Kristina. Uncle Mike married Kristina in the year of 2010 in Hawaii. He has five nieces and nephews: Adam, Kaitlynn, Chloe, Summer, and Henley.

Mr. Long’s first job after discharge was to support AT&T cell phone antenna upgrades and now he works as an Operations Supervisor for Nicor Gas. Michael stated, “The funniest things were them trying to sell us stuff that would cost one dollar for five or ten.” He has many friends from the military and still keeps in touch with them over Facebook. Thank you for your service Uncle Mike!

Vietnam Era Veteran
By Blake Orwig

Bill Bohnsack was a veteran from the Vietnam era. He spent his service time as an army mechanic in Alaska. He used his mechanical skills to fix the vehicles of the servicemen in Alaska.

Bill Bohnsack was born and raised in Decatur, Illinois. Before entering the military he had a strong interest in working on vehicles. He enlisted to join the army at the age of 17. He received his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where he was trained as an automotive repairman.

Bill was stationed at Fort Richardson, Alaska. There he worked on vehicles in the motor pool. After he was promoted to E5, which is the highest level of seniority, he became the track section chief at the maintenance center. He enjoyed his job there. He thought that it was neat to be so young and have a chance to work on multi-million dollar vehicles. His least favorite part of the job was having to fill out the very complicated paperwork. While living in Alaska, he lived in barracks that were three stories tall and could house up to 600 people. The temperature when he arrived in Alaska in March 1965, was -25 degrees Fahrenheit. He wrote regularly to his family during the war. In fact, servicemen were told to write regularly to his family so they knew that you were still alive. During his service, he received 30 or so letters of commendation including one from a major general. His favorite place that he visited was the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

Bill felt good when he arrived home. He did not wear his uniform out of the airport after being told there were protesters outside. There was no homecoming for him when he arrived home. A couple of his friends have contacted him since he came home, but he never tried to reach out to any of them. Within ten days of arriving home he got a job at Pioneer. Bill spent 39 years there as an area coordinator in charge of seed fields. He married his wife on February 16, 1973. He has his two daughters Ann and Janet and his three grandchildren Blake, Lauren, and Anagrace. He has lived in Princeton, Illinois, for 50 years where he belongs to the Princeton Bible Church.

Many of the servicemen in Vietnam did not engage in combat. We may immediately think of those at the front lines as veterans, but it takes a lot of support staff to fight in a conflict. You may not think an army mechanic is important in the grand scheme of things, but the military wouldn’t be able to function without people like my grandpa. Thank you for your service.

Vietnam veteran tells his story
By Cole Hille

Robert Lamm is a man who enjoys fishing, metal detecting, and target shooting. He is also part of an important part of American history he is one of the veterans that served in the Vietnam War. He served in the army from Feb 1969 until July 1970, and he was injured several times and experienced some things that he never forgot. Today, he shared with me his story.

Robert Lamm was born in Freeport, Illinois, brother to seven brothers and seven sisters. During his childhood, he enjoyed playing outside and baseball. At the age of seventeen, he decided to enlist into the Army before he could be drafted. When asked about how he felt entering the military he said. “It was just another day.” He was then sent to basic training at Fort Leonard Wood where he was a stock controller.

Robert then went by boat to Cam Ranh Bay where he spent his first three days in Vietnam. He was put into the 588 Engineer Brigade and was stationed along the Cambodian borders with a couple hundred other people. While patrolling one day, he came across some Vietnamese children. When nearing them, his squad realized that they were being ambushed; his squad backed up and drove into the jungle. When there, they stopped the truck and were ambushed again. Robert was then injured. When I asked Robert if he ever thought he wasn’t going to make it through the war, he replied. “No- I don’t think like that.”

After being discharged, Robert went to get paid and then went home to Freeport. After coming home, Robert looked for a job and found one at  Microswitch as a keyboard inspector. While working at Microswitch, he met and started dating a woman named Kathy. Kathy is now his wife and they have been married for forty-five years. After marrying her, they had two sons, Ryan and Brandon. They both became married and had children of their own. Today, Robert is retired, and he is a grandfather of six children. Lastly, I would like to thank him and all veterans for their service to our country.

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